In December 2016, Amazon Prime Air has completed the first legit drone delivery. It was a significant milestone for both the retail and the transportation industries. From the moment Jeff Bezos saw the potential in drones as a new method of goods delivery, the company invests a lot of time, effort and resources not to miss on that opportunity.
The idea of autonomous UAV delivery is certainly fascinating, but there are a few limitations to be pointed out. The most important one is a battery life, which allows for flights no longer than 15 miles. Combined with the fact that drones cannot fly above the cities, it makes the overall concept much less attractive.
But where there’s a will there’s a way… And Amazon found it. The company has filed a patent for airborne supply centres that will also act as motherships for drones. The vision sounds a bit futuristic but I so as computers in our pockets…
Airborne supply centres may be a perfect solution! They are cheap, easy to maintain and they are mobile which means they can be easily moved to other places if a situation requires so. The patent describes that airship will float at an altitude of 45,000 ft and it will be stocked with products based on customer needs. When a customer places an order, a drone will fly down and deliver the package. Furthermore, drones would be able to communicate with each other via a mesh network to give information regarding weather or route.
The best part is that drone won’t require much energy, because it will glide down, rather than taking off. It works like beehives with an army waiting for orders! We can also read that after delivery, UAVs will fly to specially designated shuttles (smaller airships). The reason behind it is reducing cost. It would require a lot of energy for Drones to return to mother base. Instead, they would fly to the shuttle that will take them to the top along with other supplies, packaged and fuel. Back there UAVs will recharge and wait for another request.
Amazon’s patent filing suggests that in some instances “airships could be moved close to sporting arenas or festival sites and used to sell merchandise”. It all sounds a bit futuristic, but it has so many benefits that it might be implemented.